Coddling Plus Devices? Unequivocal Disaster for Our Kids.

THE ANXIOUS GENERATION: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, by Jonathan Haidt

Imagine that your 10-year-old daughter gets chosen to join the first human settlement on Mars. She’s ready to blast off but needs your permission.

You learn that the billionaire architect of the mission hasn’t considered the risks posed by the red planet’s toxic environment, including kids developing “deformities in their skeletons, hearts, eyes and brains.”

Would you let her go?

It’s with this “Black Mirror”-esque morality play that Jonathan Haidt sets the tone for everything that follows in his erudite, engaging, combative, crusading new book, “The Anxious Generation.” Mars is a stand-in for the noxious world of social media. If we’d say no to that perilous planet, we should of course say no to this other alien universe.

Instead, we hem and haw about the risks, failing to keep our kids safely grounded in nondigital reality. The result can no longer be ignored: deformities of the brain and heart — anxiety, depression, suicidality — plaguing our youth.

Haidt, a social psychologist, is a man on a mission to correct this collective failure. His first step is to convince us that youth are experiencing a “tidal wave” of suffering. In a single chapter and with a dozen carefully curated graphs, he depicts increases in mental illness and distress beginning around 2012. Young adolescent girls are hit hardest, but boys are in pain, too, as are older teens.

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